How to Grow and Sustain an Industrial Rehab Program

Man twisting bolts on wooden box

Therapy providers in both private practice and outpatient hospital clinics are always looking for ways to increase revenue. With the restrictions in insurance reimbursement and Medicare treatment guidelines, many clinics are feeling the crunch to grow their revenue streams. One of the best ways to optimize revenue is by growing the workers’ comp patient population and developing a strong industrial rehab program. Workers’ compensation insurance is the highest reimbursing insurance in the U.S., so the most profitable clinics, are those with a thriving industrial rehab program.

What is industrial rehab?

Industrial rehab is a specialized treatment program designed to get an injured worker safely back to employment following a work-related injury. Services that fall within an industrial rehab program include:

  • Acute outpatient physical and occupational therapy
  • Work hardening/work conditioning
  • Functional capacity evaluations

Many providers struggle with how to increase their workers' comp referrals and grow their industrial rehab programs. A common mistake is they believe that to have a successful industrial rehabilitation program they need to focus on growing Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) referrals. The problem with this approach is that FCE’s are typically done at the end of the treatment. So, this top-down approach often results in fewer referrals, as most workers’ compensation claims do not require an FCE at the end of treatment.

An industrial rehabilitation program focused on a bottom-up approach, starting in the acute phase of therapy, is the best strategy for a successful and profitable industrial rehabilitation program.

Visualize your industrial rehab program as a tree, with the roots being your outpatient/acute therapy work comp population, the work conditioning/hardening program as the tree branches, and the functional capacity evaluations as the upper canopy branches. The more you water and nurture the roots, the greater the branches will grow, both outward and upward.

Acute therapy tree

Successful return-to-work

An industrial rehab mindset should begin day one with the initial PT/OT therapy evaluation with all work comp patients. This entails having a conversation with the patient at their initial evaluation regarding their essential job functions and material handling requirements to return to work full duty. Knowing the patient’s job demands when they enter your program in the acute therapy stage will help with anticipating your POC, and the need for additional industrial rehab services, such as work conditioning or the need for an FCE at the conclusion of outpatient therapy.

The outpatient PT/OT Functional Progress Notes and Functional Discharge Summaries that are done in the OccuPro Return-to-Work Software will provide objective information to the physician and the insurance company regarding the patient’s job demands match. Based on the patient’s job demand match, you can determine more definitively whether the patient needs more therapy, is ready to transition into a work conditioning or hardening program, or is ready to return to work. This documentation will allow the clinician to make a proactive recommendation for a work hardening/conditioning program, vs. hoping the physician is work comp savvy enough to understand whether the patient would benefit from this higher-level program.

OccuPro’s Return-to-Work Software is the premier outpatient therapy documentation system that will guide your POC decisions and will grow your work conditioning and FCE referrals. Remember your outpatient work comp population represents the roots of your industrial rehab program. The more the roots are watered and fed, the greater the branches (Work conditioning, FCE’s) will grow.

Questions regarding growing and sustaining a successful industrial rehab program? Please reach out to Paige Shafer, MS, OTR/L, CFCE, CEAS by email at or call 866.470.4440.

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